Aftermath of Participatory Budgeting - Tree Care

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Tree Care Goes On

The Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association successfully campaigned for its proposal to plant twenty trees on Nostrand Avenue and side streets in the 35th Council District represented by Laurie Cumbo back in March. Part of the proposal was to start a program of tree care to make sure the new trees survived. The proposal still needs to be funded by the city; this is mostly a pro forma matter as Laurie Cumbo is leader of the Democrats in the Council and they have an overwhelming majority. No doubt she will get what she proposes. However, the June vote does mean delay. Then the money must be transferred to the Parks Department and go from there to Brooklyn Forestry, and Brooklyn Forestry must decide where on Nostrand Avenue the trees will go and when they will be planted. The city is a giant behemoth and it moves slowly.

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However, Tree Care is already up and running conducted by paid interns and also a large group of volunteers. The interns go out three times a week, they pick up litter and then they take care of the trees. On Sundays the volunteers come. The interns are hard workers, and they have become expert from doing their job repeatedly. They know the drill, everyone does a different job and they do all the jobs efficiently and well. The volunteers are a shifting group, irregular in showing up, often late, often with a need to leave early and they include children.

The children are wonderful; they love the work because they want to help the trees, and they have terrific ideas. A group of girls made amazingly charming signs: “No dogs or alligators.” “Pas des chiens, s'il vous plait,” and cute pictures of rejected piles of poop. People obey these signs. How could they not? Children have a direct understanding that adults lack. Who could throw a cigarette in a tree pit with a sign that says: “This is not an ashtray.” A girl and her little brother jointly managed a heavy watering can and discussed how best to pour. They covered everything. Children get lost in building “volcanoes” as though they were at the beach. Also it makes adults stop and think; trees grow slowly – in two decades who knows where people might be, but these children will be around and no doubt aware that they made the world a better place. Trees can be old friends you go back and visit like a favorite uncle. They attach children, who often live very much in the present, to long stretches of time.

What does tree care involve? First, cleaning out the pits getting rid of noxious materials; second, loosening soil that is hard packed so it resists absorbing water and making “volcanoes” around the tree to hold water; third watering the tree generously, 15 yo 20 gallons a week. Also trees need tree guards to keep animals and vehicle away, and then trees come from many sources – the Parks Department, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Restoration Project, and some people go to places like Home Depot and buy them. The NAIA Tree Care program has as of May 26, 17 trees in its care, six of them newly planted, and the rest relatively young ones that need someone to look out for them. More will be added, the more volunteers show up.

Volunteers come from everywhere – church, schools,non-profits, block associations, friends of friends. The last time I went out, couple showed up from Alabama. And tree care catches on. Two merchants on Nostrand Avenue personally care for their own trees. Six merchants gladly let the tree care personnel get water in their establishments. The volunteer program is irregular with an array of talents from those of accomplished carpenters to uncertain but committed six-year-olds, but from where I stand I see real community – children, young people, parents and seniors all coming together to give what they can. It is fun, it is worthwhile, it is educational, it gives a warm feeling of helping, being involved and making the surrounding area a better place to live.

– John DeWind

UpdatesRobbie Klein